For many of us that grew up in the 80s, the video game arcade holds a special allure. The one I haunted at our local mall was appropriately named “The Goldmine”. I spent hours in there playing all kinds of games. And then came home to spend even more time playing on the Atari 2600. Games have always fascinated me: video games, board games, role-playing game, card games. All kinds of games, but especially the sorts of games that were published during my youth in the 80s. So when Smokes recommended that I read this book based on the premise that a quirky billionaire has created a contest based on the details and the spirit of those games, I was intrigued. Ready Player One is the first novel by Ernest Cline. I’ve read a number of various descriptions of the book: quest novel, love story, nostalgia, dystopia, “Willy Wonka meets The Matrix“, and virtual space opera are just a few. Set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, Ready Player One is a critical mass of 80s pop-culture. The geekier the better.
Perhaps even more interesting is the game within the book itself. Cline’s own obsession with the 80s is manifest in his project car. In an interview with Stephanie Carmichael of VentureBeat, he describes the car this way:
“I have modified the car so that it matches the DeLorean driven by the protagonist in my book. I’ve added personalized license plates that read ECTO88. I’ve also outfitted the car with a KITT scanner from ‘Knight Rider’, an Oscillation Overthruster from Buckaroo Banzai, a large array of Ghostbusting equipment, and a Flux Capacitor. So now it’s a time-traveling, knight-riding, ghostbusting jet car. Probably the geekiest vehicle in history. I love it.”
But he didn’t just build one of these cars. He built two. One is for himself — and occasionally he allows friends to sit in it. The other is a prize to the first reader clever enough to solve the series of puzzles within the novel itself.
It’s a fun book. If you’ve ever enjoyed a game of Dungeons & Dragons, a John Hughes film or an Oingo Bongo song, I guarantee there will be something in it for you.